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Botulism 

  • Overview

Introduction 

Botulism alert - November 13 2011

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is advising people not to eat jars of Loyd Grossman Korma sauce from a specific batch  because of the risk of botulism poisoning.

Only one jar from the batch is known to have been contaminated with clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism, but the FSA is advising people not to eat sauce from this batch as a precaution.

The affected batch is 350g jars of Loyd Grossman Korma sauce with a 'best before' date of February 2013. Jars carry the batch code 1218R 07:21.

Two members of the same family in Scotland who ate from a jar of this batch of sauce have contracted botulism and been hospitalised.  Anyone who has sauce from this batch should not eat it.

No other batches of Loyd Grossman products are thought to be affected.

The Food Standards Agency will provide more information as it becomes available.

Further details are also available from the Health Protection Agency.

Botulism is a rare but potentially fatal infection caused by toxins (poisons) that are produced by bacteria called clostridium botulinum.

The toxins produced by clostridium botulinum are the most powerful naturally occurring toxins known to science. They attack the nervous system (the nerves, brain and spinal cord) and cause paralysis (weakness). Left untreated, the paralysis will spread to the lungs, causing breathing failure followed by death.

There are three different ways of contracting botulism. They can be classified as:

  • food-borne botulism
  • wound botulism
  • infant botulism

These are described in more detail below.

Food-borne botulism

Food-borne botulism is caused by eating food that has been contaminated with the botulinum toxin as a result of it being improperly canned or preserved.

Wound botulism

Wound botulism occurs when a wound becomes infected with botulism spores, which then produce toxins. This usually occurs when the tissue is damaged through the injection of contaminated heroin or the snorting of contaminated cocaine.

Infant botulism

Infant botulism can occur if a baby swallows some botulinum bacteria spores, which produce toxins in their intestines (part of the digestive system).

Infant botulism usually only affects babies who are less than 12 months old. After a year, children develop a defence against the spores.

How common is botulism?

Botulism is relatively rare in the UK. There have only been 33 recorded cases of food-borne botulism in England and Wales since 1989. Twenty-seven of these were linked to a single outbreak that was caused by contaminated hazelnut yoghurt. Since 1978, there have been eight cases of infant botulism. None of these cases resulted in death.

In contrast to food-borne botulism and infant botulism, the number of wound botulism cases has risen sharply since 2002. In 2006, there were 22 recorded cases, which resulted in two deaths. There were a further 11 cases in 2007. The rise in wound botulism is thought to be due to people injecting heroin directly into their muscles, a practice that is often referred to as 'skin-popping'.

Outlook

If treated promptly, the outlook for someone with botulism is usually good. Antitoxins have proven to be very effective in successfully treating the condition, although a full recovery may take several months. In 1 or 2 cases out of 20, botulism can be fatal.

Botulism is not contagious and cannot be spread through person-to-person contact. It also cannot enter the body through intact (unbroken) skin.

  • show glossary terms
Bacteria
Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that live in the body. Some can cause illness and disease and some are good for you.
Brain
The brain controls thought, memory and emotion. It sends messages to the body controlling movement, speech and senses.
Intestines
The intestines are the part of the digestive system between the stomach and the anus that digests and absorbs food and liquid.
Spinal cord
The spinal cord is a column of nervous tissue located in the spinal column. It sends messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

Last reviewed: 07/05/2010

Next review due: 07/05/2012

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